US demand for high performance composites -- polymer materials containing advanced fiber reinforcements -- is forecast to grow 15 percent per year to $10.3 billion in 2016. Advances will represent a considerable improvement over the pedestrian growth of the 2006- 2011 period, during which time composite demand was hampered by a weak aerospace market and declines in military applications. Going forward, high performance composite demand will be aided by strong growth in the commercial airliner market, as well as emerging opportunities in applications such as wind turbines and pressure vessels. However, the high cost and labor-intensive production of advanced composites compared to competitive materials will prevent these materials from penetrating more highvolume and price-sensitive applications.
High performance composites are high strength, high stiffness materials that feature lighter weight and better durability than aluminum and other metals. Historically, these composites have been confined to military uses and high-end sporting goods due to their much higher prices compared to conventional glassfiber composites and metals. However, better production processes, the development of lower-cost carbon fibers, and a greater focus on lighter-weight components have allowed advanced composites to attract more widespread attention.
Aerospace markets will remain the leading outlet for high performance composites in 2016, and will be by far the fastest-growing market. While composites have long been used in military aircraft and helicopters, they are beginning to penetrate the commercial airliner segment on a large scale as well. In particular, the production ramp up of the Boeing 787 DREAMLINER, which has more than 50 percent composite content, will stimulate the bulk of gains in high performance composite demand. Rising production of other composite-intensive aircraft, such as the Airbus A380 and A350 XWB, will also benefit demand.
Outside of the aerospace applications, a strong area of growth for high performance composites is the burgeoning wind energy market. In wind energy, advances will be fueled by rising wind turbine installations as states seek to meet renewable energy generation standards, as well as increased use of carbon fiber composites. Much slower growth is expected for defense and safety applications -- due to reduction of combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and the highly mature sporting goods market. The motor vehicle market, which holds perhaps the greatest potential for high performance composites, will see only moderate gains in demand, as widescale, large-volume use of automotive composites will continue to be restrained by high cost and slow production speeds.
Among product types, carbon fiber composites will continue to account for the largest portion of demand, totaling 84 percent of the high performance market in 2016. Carbon fiber composites will benefit from robust growth in the aerospace market, as well as their versatility, good balance of mechanical properties, and moderate cost compared with other high performance composites. S-glass fiber composites -- the lowest-priced of all advanced composites -- will also see double-digit gains in demand, fueled by opportunities in aerospace, wind energy, and pressure vessel markets. More moderate gains are forecast for composites based on aramid and other fibers, restrained by the slower-growing defense and safety composites market.
This Freedonia industry study, “High Performance Composites”, presents historical demand data (2001, 2006, 2011) plus forecasts for 2016 and 2021 by fiber, market and resin. The study also considers market environment factors, assesses industry structure, evaluates company market share and profiles US industry competitors.